Step to the Graveyard Easy

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"Matthew Cape had no time to worry about his fears; caught up in events not of his making, but inescapable, he does things he's never dared and goes places he's only dreamed about. He's given up everything he ever had, but nothing at all of what he is, and if there's a price to pay, Cape is the one who will pay it." The Corvette is easy, the skydiving fun, and gambling, well ... that has always been a passion, though never at stakes this high. Dealing with grifters like Boone and Tanya Judson, however, is a touch of the unknown, and when they try ...
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"Matthew Cape had no time to worry about his fears; caught up in events not of his making, but inescapable, he does things he's never dared and goes places he's only dreamed about. He's given up everything he ever had, but nothing at all of what he is, and if there's a price to pay, Cape is the one who will pay it." The Corvette is easy, the skydiving fun, and gambling, well ... that has always been a passion, though never at stakes this high. Dealing with grifters like Boone and Tanya Judson, however, is a touch of the unknown, and when they try to cheat Cape in a crooked poker game in San Francisco, his route changes drastically. From the City by the Bay to Lake Tahoe, a trail of deceit finally leads him to the peace he seeks, the freedom he wants ... and the redemption he needs.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This slim novel from a veteran of noir thrillers, including the Nameless Detective series, is as slick and plot driven as they come. Matt Cape is 35 and stuck in a rut: when his wife catches him in bed with another woman, he quits his job and takes to the road, leaving his old life (or lack thereof) behind. He heads south, then west, eventually landing in San Francisco, where he is fleeced in a card game by Boone Judson and his sidekick, Tanya. Cape gets his and the other players' money back, along with some mysterious photographs. He returns the money to its owners and follows the cardsharps to Lake Tahoe, where he also tracks down the people in the photos and warns them that they may be in danger. When a high-stakes poker game ends in carnage, Cape is sure that Boone and Tanya were involved, but now there's someone else in the picture, someone even more dangerous than the grifters. The police think Cape knows more than he lets on, making his search for the murderer that much more urgent. Pronzini (Nothing but the Night; Blue Lonesome) efficiently pulls readers into Cape's world, but other characters get little fine shading. The author compensates with lean, tart dialogue and snappy pacing as Cape doggedly tries to right the world's wrongs, like a jaded Robin Hood. Though he's an ordinary man caught up in events beyond his control, he is also fearless before death and, through him, readers can act out the pulp fantasy of a good guy beating the odds. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Pronzini, author of the "Nameless Detective" series, grabs readers on the first page of this work and hurtles them through a series of twists and turns, culminating in a surprise ending. A quiet salesman, Matthew Cape leads a dull, predictable life, but his midlife crisis prompts radical change: he leaves his wife, quits his job, and severs all ties to his past. Out to create a violently new life for himself, he buys a Corvette, tries skydiving, and takes to the road cross-country. While gambling in San Francisco, he meets up with Boone and Tanya Judson, who start him on a trail that leads to deceit and murder. Drawing on skills he didn't know he had, he evades both police and criminals, until he finally finds the redemption he seeks. Using sharp, staccato sentences, Pronzini accomplishes more in 180 pages than many authors do in two or three times the space. The suspense is pitched so high that one finds oneself turning the pages faster and faster. Highly recommended for all libraries. Fred Gervat, Concordia Coll., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Inexplicably engineering matters so that his wife will find him in bed with a tootsie and kick him out, Matthew Cape empties his savings account of $26,000, splurges on a '91 yellow-and-black Corvette (six-speed, with all the extras and a new glass top), and heads for the open road, helping out strangers along the way and stopping as the whim takes him-a change of life that lands him in the lobby of a plush San Francisco hotel where a blond looker, a ringer for his wife, named Tanya Judson, bamboozles him into a poker game with her alleged brother. The game is rigged, of course, and when Matt steals back his stake, he finds a picture of a couple he assumes are the Judsons' next marks: wealthy Vegas entrepreneur Andrew Vanowen and his luscious young wife Stacey. But the Vanowens don't believe Matt's Good Samaritan warning, even when the Judsons pop up. When Stacy's envious sister Lacy makes a pass or two at Matt, it's obvious that there's more than one setup in progress for Matt to unravel, but not before automatics come into play, car trunks open to the metallic smell of blood, and Matt finally reveals just what prompted his abrupt change in lifestyle. Pronzini, who seems to be saving his writing muscle for his Nameless endeavors, coasts on pulp dialogue and stereotypes in this short-story-inflated-to-a-novel.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786245123
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Pages: 319
  • Product dimensions: 5.73 (w) x 8.77 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Pronzini is the author of more than forty novels, including three in collaboration with his wife, the novelist Marcia Muller, and is the creator of the popular Nameless Detective series. A six-time nominee for the Edgar Allan Poe Award (most recently for A Wasteland of Strangers). Pronzini is also the recipient of two Shamus Awards. He lives in Northern California.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Cape was screwing the little redhead from Logan's Café when Anna came home and caught him.

    He didn't see or hear her walk into the bedroom. The redhead was on top, making pleasure noises, leaning forward with her breasts in his face. Neither of them knew Anna was there until she yelled, "You son of a bitch!" in a shrill tremolo.

    The redhead wrenched around and off him so violently she damn near ruptured him. Anna was standing stick straight in the doorway. White face, white fisted hands, white nurse's outfit and cap. Like a ghost except for her eyes. They burned hot, smoky at the edges, like cigarette holes in a piece of paper before it bursts into flame.

    None of them said anything. Anna stared at him; the redhead, Lonnie, stared at Anna; and he didn't look straight at either one. Lonnie was scrambling into her clothes, panting in a different cadence now. He heard her start to babble.

    "Oh God, Mrs. Cape, I'm sorry ... he said you wouldn't be home until late ... I didn't mean to ... I don't know why ... oh God, I'm sorry ..."

    "Get out of here," Anna said. She didn't take her eyes off Cape.

    "So sorry, really, I ..."

    "Get out of my house."

    Lonnie ran out, holding her blouse closed with one hand, her bra trailing from the other. The front door slammed.

    Anna said, "In our bed. Right here in our bed."

    Cape swung painfully off the bed, stood up. He didn't sayanything.

    "You're such a shit."

    "I guess I am."

    "Put something on," she said, disgust in her voice. "She shines all over you like grease."

    He bent, wincing, to pick up his pants. He put them on, put on his shirt. The doorway was empty by then. When he went out into the living room, Anna was at the sideboard pouring Scotch. The bottle's neck chattered against the rim of the tumbler. She'd pulled off her cap; her blond hair was frizzed up on top and sides like a fright wig. He moved past her to the front window, stood looking out.

    Behind him she said, "Well?"

    He didn't answer.

    "No excuses? No apology?"

    A kid went by on a bicycle, pumping hard, his long hair streaming out behind him.

    "All right, then. Tell me this. Is she the first?"

    Another kid, this one fat, working the pedals even harder and sweating in the muggy June heat. The type who would always be lagging behind, trying to catch up to the front-runners and never quite making it. The type Cape himself had always been.

    "Answer me, Matthew."

    No. Not really like that kid, not any longer. He'd quit pumping hard, trying to catch up; for some time now he'd just been standing still.

    "Damn you, say something!"

    "Would you believe me if I said Yes, she was the first?"


    "Well, she was."


    "Have it your way then."

    "Why other women? Wasn't I enough for you?"

    Cape turned to face her. Hurt and anger made her eyes as round and shiny as grapes. "You're woman enough for any man," he said.

    "Then why? Why fuck somebody else in our bed?"

    "I did it, that's all."

    "You did it, but that's not all. Not by a long shot."

    "The only answer I can give you is that I'm not the same."

    "What does that mean? The same what?"

    "Same man you married. I've changed. You haven't."

    "Right, sure. That explains it."

    "We've grown apart," Cape said. "Things haven't been good for either of us for some time. You know they haven't. We don't even have sex much anymore."

    "Oh, so now you're going to use that as an excuse."

    "I'm not making excuses."

    "I can't help it if I've had so much night duty, long hours at the hospital."

    "Not blaming you, Anna. Just stating a fact. The marriage isn't working."

    "Maybe it isn't," she admitted, "but we could've worked things out. Twelve years ... we made it through rougher patches ..."

    "In the beginning," Cape said. "We're different people now."

    "You keep saying that. You're the one who's changed, that's for sure. The past few months ... moody, restless ... all that so-called business travel to Chicago or wherever ... and now you bring another woman into our bed. I hardly know you anymore."

    "No, not anymore."

    "What's the matter with you? Some kind of midlife crisis, is that it? You're thirty-five, that's not even midlife."

    "Three score and ten," he said.


    "Never mind. Forget it."

    "Forget it," Anna said bitterly. "Am I supposed to forget what I just saw in the bedroom?"

    "I don't expect you to, no."

    "I couldn't if I wanted to. In our bed, damn you!" She swallowed Scotch, coughed, tried to drink again, and choked this time. She hurled the glass against the couch. "You bastard," she said. She was on the edge of tears now.

    "I'm sorry, Anna. I know you don't believe it—"

    "I wouldn't believe you anymore if you said the sky was blue."

    "—but it's the truth. I'm sorry for everything."

    "Liar. All you're sorry for is that you got caught."

    "All right."

    "All right, all right, all right." She drew a long, shuddery breath. "We're finished, Matthew. Once and for all, as of right now."

    "I know."

    "What you did today ... it's the one thing I won't put up with."

    "I know," he said again.

    "You know, you know. You don't know shit, that's what you don't know."

    "You're better off without me," he said.

    "Well, that's for damn sure."

    "I'll leave right now."

    "The quicker the better. Pack up and get out. Go chase after that redheaded bitch, finish what you started."

    "I'm through with her."

    "You think I care? Screw her brains out, for all I care." Wetness dribbled along her cheek. Angrily she wiped it away. "One thing you better understand right now. I want this house. I'll fight you for it if I have to. That's the first thing I'm going to tell the lawyer."

    "You won't have to. Everything's yours except half of what's in the savings and the Emerson stock."

    "Isn't that generous of you. I suppose if we had kids, you'd let me have them too. You know something, Matthew? I'm glad we're childless. I'm glad I had that miscarriage nine years ago."

    "You don't mean that."

    "Don't I?"

    "No, you don't. Hurt me if you want—don't hurt yourself."

    She put her back to him, standing rigidly the way she had in the bedroom doorway. "Go on, get out of here. I can't stand to look at you. I hope to God I never see you again after today."

    "You won't."

    "Is that a promise?"

    Cape said softly, "You'll never see me again."

    "I should be so lucky."

    He returned to the bedroom. His half of the closet was filled with suits, sports jackets, ties, casual clothes, a dozen pairs of shoes, a five-piece set of Gucci luggage; his dresser was jammed with shirts, underwear, socks, jewelry. Material possessions. Things. He dragged out one medium-size suitcase, filled it with essentials and one suit, two sports jackets. Took him less than fifteen minutes—just long enough to dismantle twelve years of his life.

    Anna was gone when he came out again. Just as well. There was nothing more to be said.

    Except one thing. And he said that aloud to the empty house, because she wouldn't have wanted to hear it anyway.

    "Good-bye, Anna."

Chapter Two

Bernie Klosterman was the only one of Cape's half-dozen friends who wasn't married. He lived alone in a two-bedroom high-rise condo near downtown. Cape found him home, astonished him with the news.

    "Sure, sure," Bernie said, "you can stay here tonight. Longer, if you want."

    "Just tonight, thanks."

    "Listen, Matt, why'd you do it? You never cheated on Anna before, did you?"

    "First time."

    "Taking that waitress to your house ... man, what possessed you? If you had to bang her, why not a motel somewhere?"

    "Maybe I wanted to get caught," Cape said.

    Bernie stared at him. "Why would you want that?"

    "The push I needed. Last push out."

    "Out of the marriage? I knew the two of you weren't getting along, but—"

    "Not just the marriage. Everything. Now there's no turning back."

    "What're you talking about?"

    "I made the date with Lonnie yesterday," Cape said. "This morning I quit my job."

Excerpted from Step to the Graveyard Easy by Bill Pronzini. Copyright © 2002 by Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    haunting noir

    All his life Matthew Cape has been considered a good person, a kind and honest man whom works hard and is faithful to his wife. In the middle of a day, his world is turned upside down when Anna walks into her bedroom and sees Matt with another woman. After Anna confronts him and leaves Matt packs up and leaves home for parts unknown. <P>He travels all over the country seeing new places and enjoying the wild side of life. In San Francisco, con artists Tanya and Boone Judson take him in but Matt manages to turn the tables on them and regains his money. Though something Judsons let slip and through photographs, Matt travels to Lake Tahoe where he comes in contact with true evil and takes a stand that will either mean his salvation or his damnation. <P>This novel is neither pretty nor neat but it is an honest reflection of the human condition. Bill Pronzini, author of the famous Nameless Detective series, lays bare the soul of his protagonist in such a way that readers will come to accept his choices he made. STEP TO THE GRAVEYARD EASY is literary noir that is dark, brooding and very haunting, a book that the audience will long remember. <P>Harriet Klausner

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